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6 Cyber Security Tips for Older Adults (Canada)

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Encouraging older adults to practice cyber safety can go a long way toward protecting their identity and sensitive personal information. Senior care professionals can play a role in making their clients aware of their potential vulnerability.

“Protecting older adults online is all about planning ahead,” said Mark Matz, Director of Policy and Issues Management with the National Cyber Security Directorate at Public Safety Canada. “They might never encounter a security breach online, but it’s crucial to take the appropriate steps to ensure they don’t become an easy target.”

Consider these tips from Public Safety Canada, the National Cyber Security Alliance, The Stop Think and Connect campaign’s online safety tips for older adults, and the Home Instead® network. And educate your clients by suggesting they take the “Can You Spot an Online Scam?” quiz.

1. Password-protect devices. Half of seniors do not use the password feature on at least one of their internet-enabled devices, leaving it open to whoever may pick it up, according to research conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead network. Locking all of their devices including computer, tablet and telephone with secure passwords will keep prying eyes out and protect information in case these devices are lost or stolen. Encourage any seniors you are serving to make passwords strong and keep them in a safe, secure place away from their computer. A strong password is a sentence that is at least 8-12 characters long. Recommend a mix of letters, numbers and symbols, and no personal information.

Since passwords can be stolen, adding two-step authentication to accounts provides a second layer of protection. Many online services, including apps and websites, offer free options that could help seniors protect their information and ensure it’s actually them trying to access their accounts – not just someone with their password. Learn to "Lock Down Your Login" at And, for more information about two-step authentication, go to

2. Think before acting. It can be easy to panic when faced with an urgent request. Remind older adults to stop and think before they act and get a second opinion when in doubt. Encourage them to ignore emails and communication that create a sense of urgency such as a problem with their bank account or taxes. This type of message is likely a scam. When in doubt, they should throw it out. Clicking on links in emails is often how scammers get access to personal information. If an email looks unusual, even if they know the person who sent it, it’s best to delete it. Remind older adults that scammers can hack into friends’ email addresses and send messages on their behalf. Spam filters should be on email accounts.

3. Share with care. Social media is a big draw for older adults. In fact, the majority of seniors interviewed in the Home Instead survey say they participate. And that could be a good thing, helping to keep them connected. Encourage older adults to share with care on social media sites such as Facebook. Remind seniors to appropriately adjust their privacy settings to limit who can see their information and to avoid sharing their location.

4. Use security software. Most seniors in the Home Instead survey say they have help with their computers – either from a family member or a computer professional. Suggest that seniors install security software from a reliable source and keep it updated. It is best to run the anti-virus and anti-spyware software regularly. They should be wary of pop-up ads or emails. They may actually be malware that could infect computers. Computer users should clear browsing history at the end of their sessions so they don’t leave a trail of sensitive data. Suggest they enable the default firewall security protection on their computers. If antivirus software includes additional firewall protection, consider suggesting they contact a computer professional to ensure they are safely protected without over-blocking sites they use regularly.

5. Log out. Suggest that seniors log out of apps and websites when they are done using them. Leaving them open on their computer screen could make them vulnerable to security and privacy risks.

6. Recommend support. If your clients live alone or spend a lot of time by themselves, consider a trusted source to serve as a second set of eyes and ears. Your local Home Instead could help by providing a professional CAREGiverSM, who is screened, trained and insured. Visit to find an office near you.

Education is the best form of protection. For more information about how to protect seniors from fraud, visit And for more about cyber security, go to Public Safety Canada at

Last revised: February 17, 2017

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